- Best Western Plus Wichita Hotel paid $5,693 in back wages to resolve allegations that it denied 13 workers paid leave in violation of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), according to an Oct. 19 U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announcement.
- The employer, based in Wichita, Kansas, failed to pay the employees after they contracted COVID-19 and were required to quarantine, the agency concluded after an investigation.
- The FFCRA "qualifies employees for paid sick time to care for themselves and their families due to coronavirus-related reasons. This provision aids in limiting the spread of the coronavirus and protects employees and the public," said Wage and Hour District Director Reed Trone in a statement. "Employers must take all the steps necessary to comply with the FFCRA and should review their obligations under this new law to avoid similar violations."
The FFCRA entitles certain workers to paid leave for quartining, school closures and other COVID-19 related reasons, according to DOL. And while the law applies only to companies with fewer than 500 employees, employers may need to check for relevant state and local laws as some have adopted broader mandates.
The federal law remains in effect only until the end of the year, however, and it’s unclear whether Congress will create an extension.
Notably, recent research suggests that the FFCRA significantly reduced COVID-19 cases. Published Oct. 15 in Health Affairs, the study posited that the availability of paid leave resulted in "roughly 1 prevented COVID-19 case per day, per 1300 workers who newly gained the option to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave."
As the nation’s COVID-19 numbers climb while the clock ticks down on paid leave, employers may need to consider how or if they will allow employees to take leave to address exposure or school closures, according to Perlman and Perlman partner Lisa M. Brauner.
"Consider now how paid sick and family leave policies will need to be modified depending on whether FFCRA is extended beyond December 31, 2020, and ways in which your organization can support its employees in order to retain them," Brauner wrote in a blog post for the firm. Employers also should train managers to avoid caregiver discrimination, Brauner said, adding that employers should "[c]onfer with employment counsel before deciding not to provide a leave of absence to an employee due to a care-giving need.